El Toro’s boys water polo team took a different route to reach a familiar destination at the South Coast Tournament on Saturday.
Known best in recent seasons for an aggressive counterattack and strong play at center, the Chargers road their defense to their second title in three seasons.
Second-ranked El Toro sank top-ranked and top-seeded Los Alamitos, 7-5, in the afternoon final at Newport Harbor.
Earlier Saturday, the Chargers edged league rival and No. 5 Foothill in the semifinals, 6-5. In the quarterfinals Friday, El Toro held No. 6 Newport Harbor to four goals.
“That’s pretty good defense,” said El Toro coach Don Stoll, who capped a stressful week by beating the top-ranked team in CIF-SS Division I.
“We’ve always cheated a little bit on defense. We’ve had this idea that we might give up one or two (goals) but we’re going to get five. … But the bottom line is that they are pressing hard right now (on defense).”
Fittingly, El Toro (7-0) sealed its victory against Los Alamitos (8-1) with a goal setup by its defense. The Chargers led 6-5 with about a minute left in the fourth when goalie Tommy O’Connell blocked an open man-advantage chance by Los Alamitos’ Forrest Watkins.
After the block, El Toro’s Griffin White broke free on the counterattack, drew a penalty and converted the 5-meter chance to give El Toro a 7-5 lead with 47 seconds left.
Dalton Stokes and Nick Rascon then combined to force a turnover on Los Alamitos’ final possession.